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Bill Kohls, left, and Pete Olson, both with the Cedar Falls Utilities Energy Services Department, demonstrate at an interdepartmental meeting.

CEDAR FALLS — Staff at Cedar Falls Utilities say their company is a perennial Employers of Choice pick for good reason.

“I’ve worked for Cedar Falls Utilities for over 15 years and plan on retiring from there,” said nominator Joe Smith. “They are family-friendly and flexible if I have any family or personal issues I need to deal with. I feel very challenged and enjoy the work I do. The benefits and compensation are excellent and provide for my family.”

CFU works hard to create the type of environment Smith described, said Susan Abernathy, director of employee and legal services.

“This recognition … is a big selling point for us,” she explained. “It’s what they don’t hear; you don’t hear a bad thing about us because our employees truly love working here.”

During his tenure, General Manager Jim Krieg has spent considerable time reflecting on how best to foster employee development and satisfaction. Often, this leads him to focus on optimal work-life balance.

“You have to look at each job,” said Krieg. “There are certain jobs where it’s possible to create more flexibility for employees, whereas there are others that don’t offer as many options. We do what we can, and we’re always revisiting it.

“We have quite a few younger families now,” he added. “For them, work-life balance looks like quality time with their families. They need some flex-time to deal with the things that come up.”

CFU is open to changing with customer and employee needs, said Steve Bernard, assistant general manager. In this way, the company demonstrates agility and a willingness to adapt.

“Our expanded use of social media is an example of how we’ve created more opportunities for employee flex time, with additional evening hours,” Bernard explained. “That’s a direct result of customer requests — a role there that’s needed and growing.”

While traditional customer service options like phone and email remain the primary points of contact, Bernard believes there will soon be a shift.

“Evening hours have been the area in which we’ve seen the most expansion over the years,” he noted.

Bernard will take the helm as general manager Jan. 1. At that time, Krieg will join the ranks of the employer’s biggest cheerleaders: retirees.

“When our employees retire, they’re truly sad and emotional to leave their CFU family and customers,” said Abernathy. It speaks to the investment and engagement our employees have to CFU and the community.

This year alone, five employees retired with more than 40 years of service each. The utility’s retirees get together every month and also maintain contact with current employees, said Abernathy.

These connections reinforce the value of working for CFU, said Krieg. The foundational elements of CFU’s culture are recognition employees’ enthusiasm, continuous improvement and embracing change and new ideas.

“It’s important to make it fun,” he said. “You also have to recognize that not everything is going to go right. That’s part of life, and you learn from it.”

Employees appreciate this, said Abernathy. CFU works to provide recognition, feedback, development and overall wellness.

“We see employees as human beings; we’re all responsible for each other,” she explained.

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